Putting Big Brother In Your Car

“College student Jayson Just commutes an odometer-spinning 2,000 miles a month. As CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports, his monthly gas bill once topped his car payment.

“I was paying about $500 a month,” says Just.

So Just bought a fuel efficient hybrid and said goodbye to his gas-guzzling BMW.

And what kind of mileage does he get?

“The EPA estimate is 60 in the city, 51 on the highway,” says Just.

And that saves him almost $300 a month in gas.”

Whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, this story would seem to be good news, would it not? We have a student using the sort of technology liberals have been talking up for more than a decade and yet it’s practical because it saves him money, something conservatives can get behind.

So everybody’s happy, right? Wrong.

This “good news” is inspiring government toadies to come up with new taxes, massive new regulations, and an invasion of privacy worse than anything that John Ashcroft supposedly came up with. How can that be? Read on…

“And that saves him almost $300 a month in gas. It’s great for Just but bad for the roads he’s driving on, because he also pays a lot less in gasoline taxes which fund highway projects and road repairs. As more and more hybrids hit the road, cash-strapped states are warning of rough roads ahead.

Officials in car-clogged California are so worried they may be considering a replacement for the gas tax altogether, replacing it with something called “tax by the mile.”

Seeing tax dollars dwindling, neighboring Oregon has already started road testing the idea.

“Drivers will get charged for how many miles they use the roads, and it’s as simple as that,” says engineer David Kim.

Kim and his team at Oregon State University equipped a test car with a global positioning device to keep track of its mileage. Eventually, every car would need one.

“So, if you drive 10 miles you will pay a certain fee which will be, let’s say, one tenth of what someone pays if they drive 100 miles,” says Kim.

The new tax would be charged each time you fill up. A computer inside the gas pump would communicate with your car’s odometer to calculate how much you owe.

The system could also track how often you drive during rush hour and charge higher fees to discourage peak use. That’s an idea that could break the bottleneck on California’s freeways.

“We’re getting a lot of interest from other states,” says Jim Whitty of the Oregon Department of Transportation. “They’re watching what we’re doing.”

Oh yeah, this is a great idea. I mean, who could be opposed to letting the government track your car’s every movement with GPS so they can tax you for it? It would be like figuratively having Robert Byrd sitting next to you in your car with a little ledger pad, chortling with glee every time the odometer turned over because that would mean he could get to take more of your money away to spend on pork barrel projects he could name after himself in West Virginia.

Of course, aside from the fact that this means “Big Brother” would be riding in the car with us everywhere we go, we’ll have new government regulations, higher priced cars, and a brand new tax…as if the government doesn’t already have enough ways to swipe our money.

This one of the worst ideas to come down the pike in a long, long, time…

*** Update #1***: More on this from Bill Hobbs.

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